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Re: <nettime> unprintability (part 1)
t byfield on Mon, 22 Aug 2011 23:28:23 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> unprintability (part 1)

Charles.Baldwin {AT} mail.wvu.edu (Sun 08/21/11 at 02:39 PM -0400):

> Do not print this book

I had a similar experience with them when they refused to print the
book _Cablegate: The Complete Wikileaks Datadump_, Volume 1, which
consisted of 200 pages of apparently random 2-bit snow.


They argued, variously, that "the interior content...contains blank
black and white pages," "your title is entirely comprised of black
and white static," "you are displaying encrypted text and...it is a
gag book," and "the book is a gag [and] illegible." It was clear from
the way their argument unfolded, and the way they clung to particular
phrases, that they knew their position was incoherent. But it was also
clear that I was dealing with a customer-service structure (including
a few 'escalations') and that epistemology wasn't really their racket.

Eight months later, their Kindle conversion system says of the 'book':

     Converting book file to Kindle format...

           \ | /
          --   --
           / | \
     This may take a few moments. If you have completed all
     required fields above, click "Save and Continue" to move
     forward while conversion continues.

Meanwhile, on Amazon, you can still "look inside" to see what their 
machines couldn't see, or could see that they couldn't see:

I was tempted to experiment with subsequent books of encrypted gags,
gag encryptions, a history of snow, stegoed images, images rendered 
in snow, etc, in order to build a sort of matrix of their policies,
but that kind of game gets a bit dull. The larger issue is that, by
disintermediating publishing, they've internalized several roles that
used to be adversarial -- and, not coincidentally, were filled by 
different actors. As a result, they end up establishing internally
contradictory policies then announcing them on an ad-hoc basis. If
anything, this is the defining characteristic of organizations whose
business involves 'user-generated content' (as opposed to 'common 
carriage,' say); it's also a defining trait of conglomeratization.
So that kind of experiment is pretty much a waste of time for anyone
but a zealot (and I use that term positively -- I'm happy there are
zealots willing to do that kind of stuff).

It's worth noting that these changes seem to have restored the book's
potential as a way to probe some of the internal operations of power
structures. It's been a while. Funny that its 'death' should mirror
its 'birth' in this respect -- as though it has a certain 'disruptive'
(ugh) capacity not in itself but, rather, when it's teetering on the
edge of legitimacy. But to pursue that kind of argument, I think we'd
need to -- as we should anyway -- distinguish between different kinds
of books, rather than throwing it around like it's some metaphysical
category, because it isn't one. Papyri, codices, broadsides, pamphlets,
pocket bibles, newspapers, paperbacks, samizdat, photocopies, faxes --
the list goes on and on -- have all had their day.


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